Tesla is currently "under review" by California's Department of Motor Vehicle, as the agency investigates whether the electric vehicle manufacturer is misleading customers through advertising for its "Full Self-Driving Capability" (FSD) feature, a source familiar with the matter tells FOX Business.
The department's 222.28 regulation prohibits a company from advertising vehicles for sale or lease as autonomous unless the vehicle meets the statutory and regulatory definition of an autonomous vehicle and the company holds a deployment permit.
According to a DMV spokesperson, violation of the regulation may result in a number of administrative actions, including suspension or revocation of an autonomous vehicles deployment permit and manufacturer’s and dealer's occupational licenses.
A vehicle operating on public roads using autonomous technology without first obtaining a permit can be removed from the public roadway by a peace officer.
Tesla's FSD and "Autopilot" capabilities currently qualify under the Society of Automotive Engineers' Level 2 classification for driver-assist technologies, which requires drivers to be ready to act at any time while self-driving features are engaged.
A Tesla equipped with the $10,000 FSD package can change lanes, take highway exit ramps, and stop at traffic lights and stop signs on its own. However, Tesla has reiterated in its owner's manuals and on its website that its "Full Self Driving Capability" and "Autopilot" features are not fully autonomous and that drivers must pay attention while using the features.
Tesla, which has dissolved its public relations department, could not be reached for comment.
The announcement comes following a series of incidents over the last month that have raised questions about the company's self-driving features.
In Washington state on Saturday, a Snohomish County deputy was responding to a collision at the 25200 block of 103rd Ave NE on Saturday, where a vehicle had sheared a power pole in half, when a Tesla, allegedly in autopilot mode, struck the officer's police car, causing significant damage.
The Snohomish County Sheriff's Office said that there were no injuries as a result of Saturday's crash. An investigation into the incident is being lead by the Washington State Patrol.
Saturday's crash came about a month after a deadly crash in Texas involving a Tesla Model S that killed two people. Local authorities have claimed that there was no one behind the wheel at the time of the fatal crash.
The Texas incident is currently under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to determine whether autopilot played a role, though CEO Elon Musk and other Tesla executives have denied the feature's potential involvement.
A preliminary investigation by the NTSB found that home security camera footage shows the owner of the Tesla entering the driver's seat of the car shortly before the deadly crash. However, it doesn't conclusively say whether Tesla's autopilot system was operating at the time of the crash.
Tesla's "Autopilot" is also under investigation as a potential "contributing factor" for a crash in California, according to the New York Post. Steven Michael Hendrickson, a 35-year-old father of two, died around 2:30 a.m. local time on May 5 when his white Tesla Model 3 struck an overturned semi on a freeway in Fontana, about 50 miles east of Los Angeles.
While the "Autopilot" – according to California Highway Patrol – "was engaged" prior to the crash, authorities have since walked that statement back and now says there "has not been a final determination made." Photos and videos posted to Hendrickson's Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook reportedly show him in the driver's seat with his hands removed from the steering wheel.
In addition, 25-year-old Param Sharma was reportedly arrested last week in California for allegedly operating a Tesla Model 3 from the back seat while driving on Interstate 80 in the Bay Area.